Explore the Art of Dance Through Community-Based Resources
Combining artistry, physical fitness and lessons in culture and traditions, dance combines the creativity of the human mind with the capabilities of the human body. From traditional ballet to contact improvisation, western Massachusetts is home to a wide variety of dance-based community resources. Families can find a wealth of classes year-round catering to all ages, interests, and abilities, and can attend dance performances of all kinds offered through community groups, dance studios, and educational institutions.
Dance-based community events pass on age-old traditions and build community through creative movement, and the practice of dance in any form supports dancers in finding themselves within their bodies, supporting the development of self-awareness and gross motor skills.
The wealth of dance-based educational resources available locally makes for easy access to classes, performances, community events, and cultural/seasonal celebrations. Ongoing dance-based opportunities for families to participate in together come mainly in the form of local contra dances, held frequently across the region. In the Berkshires, weekly Saturday dances are held in Lenox, third Fridays bring contra to North Adams, and contra events are frequently held at Dewey Hall in Sheffield. In the Pioneer Valley, the Downtown Amherst Contra Dance is held on most Wednesdays, and Greenfield’s Guiding Star Grange hosts frequent contra events.
Non-contra community dance events are offered in Northampton through Dance Spirit, an all-ages spirituality-based dance event held twice weekly. And in the Hilltowns, families can attend monthly sacred circle dances – a derived from spiritual and community-building dances from many traditions – on first Fridays at the West Cummington Parish House (27 West Main Street. 413-634-0132).
In addition to participatory community events are year-round performances, presentations, and other educational opportunities offered by local dance companies and dance students. During the summer months, Jacob’s Pillow in Becket comes to life, showcasing 50 or more dance companies and offering literally hundreds of performances, demonstrations, talks, and other events each season. Another fantastic local resource for performances and other events during the academic year is the Five College Dance Department (supported through faculty and resources from Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst), whose events calendar fills with student and faculty performances and presentations when school is in session.
Aspiring dancers of any age can find classes through which to pursue their interest in physical creativity in almost every community in western Massachusetts. From traditional ballet and Celtic dancing to modern dance and hip-hop, local studios and schools offer classes of all kinds for all abilities. Traditional ballet classes can be found in Easthampton through the Pioneer Valley Ballet, in Holyoke at the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet, at Ballet Renverse in Shelburne Falls, and Cantarella School of Dance in Pittsfield.
In addition to ballet classes, many local studios offer a mixture of classes and styles of dance, including the Berkshire Dance Theater in Adams, Small Planet Dancers in Westfield, Pineapple Dance Studio and Center Dance Studio in Amherst, Ohana School of Performing Arts in South Hadley, and Vortex Dance Fitness Studio in Easthampton.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket also offers weekly dance classes for the public during the summer. Weekday Morning Classes are taught by professional dance and movement practitioners and are open to all experience levels with no pre-registration required, ages 16+. Other opportunities to dance at the Pillow include Community Day classes on June 11; Sunday Master Classes June 26-August 28; an all levels dance class with artists of Urban Bush Women on Monday, June 27; the multigenerational Families Dance Together program held Fridays, July 8-August 19; Class with Inside/Out Artists on select Thursdays; and Free Fun Friday on July 1.
For a dance experience that blends cultural history with creative movement, explore traditional Celtic dancing – classes for all ages can be found at the CLaddagh School of Irish Dance in Springfield, Greenfield’s Celtic Heels School of Irish Dance, and Duffy Academy of Irish Dance, offering classes in Northampton and Amherst.